07 January 2010

How will you distribute your 2010 donations?

С Рождеством Христовым
Christmas blessings

Last night I realized with a pang of guilt that I had forgotten to return the form that Reedwood Friends Church was using to find out the congregation's giving plans for 2010. That pang happened about the same time I read an article, "Help That Makes a Difference: Change our Worldview," by Brian Fikkert. He's the co-author of a book that Nancy Thomas mentioned on her blog a few weeks ago, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Ourselves. I'm just now starting to read the book myself.

In typical rabbit-chase pattern, the Fikkert article sent me back to something I posted back in 2006, "On giving and receiving," based on a document of the same name issued by the Quaker Peace Network--East Africa. In return, that reminded me of Justo Gonzalez's important article "Of Fishes and Wishes."

With such a chain of reminders about the importance of financial discipleship, I don't think I can put off thinking about it any longer. But what are others thinking and doing about all this--what about you? How do you decide on amounts--and how do you decide where it goes?

About twenty years ago, Andrea Ayvazian spoke to staff and volunteers of Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas, on how to raise funds for FWCC. She spent some time talking about her own philanthropy, and described her personal guidelines at the time: She was earning $25,000 a year, from which she gave $2,500. She felt that it was important to make a few significant gifts rather than many tiny ones, so each year she decided on five destinations for the money, at $500 each.

This makes some sense to me. What about you? And if you adopt such an approach, what do you do with the blizzard of other appeals that will continue to descend?

Now: about how to deploy those resources.

Along with the titles mentioned above, including the book by Corbett and Fikkert which I've just started, I can list these helpful resources for reflection:

First, in the ambitiously titled Complete Book of Everyday Christianity from InterVarsity Press, a couple of relevant chapters are available online: "Financial Support" and "Stewardship." When considering specific organizations to support, some people have found these Web sites useful: Guidestar database of nonprofit organizations, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. And, for me, one of the ideal models for human-scale economic development help is the program I worked for between 1986 and 1993, Right Sharing of World Resources.

The book that has helped me think about financial discipleship more than any other, to date, is Charles M. Elliott's Comfortable Compassion, published in the USA by Paulist Press. Elliott's book is now probably out of date on some details (it was published in 1987, while I was at Right Sharing) and my copy is in storage thousands of miles away, but I remember his frank and useful ideas on the distorting influence of power on relationships between funders and recipients, and on the long-term cost of the split between the church's "mission" work and its "relief and development" work.

Who has helped shape your thinking on these themes? Is there a book or article or idea you can recommend?

Thinking only about money is something of an artificial distinction, since Quaker discipleship ("Gospel order" and our "testimonies") implies that our whole lives should reflect the Godward orientation of our hearts. But that's not an excuse to pull back on giving. The tricky part is that money does not transmit principles as efficiently as it transmits power. The discipline of giving includes thinking about the consequences of the transfer we're about to make. Strategic giving involves both prayer and research; sometimes it means investing in people rather than the (perhaps) more satisfying creation of new structures. Sometimes it may mean investing in lobbying along with direct aid. Sometimes it may even mean investing on oneself--perhaps giving up a job or taking a leave of absence to get personally involved.

Yet more links:

We celebrated New Year's Eve with faculty families and friends at our Institute. The TV was on (Channel 1) so that we could see President Medvedev's speech, followed by the Kremlin clock striking midnight. Shortly afterwards, I went upstairs for a series of games designed by Gennadi Utyonkov, so I missed what followed shortly afterwards: the cartoon that launched a thousand blog posts. Among the comments: "Making a little fun of Russia's powerful." "Russia's TV freedom has strings attached."

For students of Russian who caught the humor of the Medvedev-Putin cartoon wordplay on Medvedev's Internet presence, here's an interesting paper by Nina Mechkovskaya on the influence of Internet communication on everyday Russian language. (Thank you, russ-cyberspace.)

The book When Helping Hurts has an associated Web site here.

The International Development Exchange (IDEX) is a non-Quaker group that operates on a similar scale as Right Sharing and a participatory philosophy; I enjoyed collaborating with them when I was Right Sharing staff.

More development information than you'll ever need: ELDIS--a mixed bag with many gems. I'm glad this facility didn't exist when I was working for Right Sharing--I might not have gotten any work done!

What's wrong with this picture?

In Northwest Yearly Meeting, January is Peace Month.

Somebody wrote something nice about Americans! It actually seems true, too. I'm tempted to use this text in one of my classes.

Evangelicals and interfaith dialogue--a new paradigm. (My question: is it really new? Was Douglas Steere's concept of "mutual irradiation" actually relativistic?)

Another challenging gap to bridge: Joanna Quintrell and evangelism in the land of alternative spiritualities.

At last, a worthy appreciation of Marilynne Robinson.

John Lee Hooker with Muddy Water's band. In the words of YouTube poster mercydee, "Some historic, priceless footage here: The master Boogie Man backed in 1960 by the Muddy Waters Blues band (James Cotton, Otis Spann, etc). Watch out how Mr Spann knew how to raise the temperature up!" Priceless indeed.


Ashley W said...

Hi Johan,

In response to your question, I give 10% of what I make to my meetings (because I am a member of two meetings, I give each 5%). Donations to other causes come after that and, since I am usually pretty broke, mostly consist of time. By giving money to the meeting, I am much more invested in how the meeting spends its money and more likely to want to be involved in those decisions.

Thanks for writing about this, I think it is a really important topic.


Johan Maurer said...

Thank you, Ashley! Interestingly, in a recent stewardship sermon in her church,Andrea Ayvazian speaks of giving 8% of her income to the church.

Bill Samuel said...

Colorado Community Church has a 5+5 program. It recommends giving 5% to the Church and 5% to other good causes.

I have tithe money sent as an allotment from my paycheck to a separate account. This seems to me in accord with the first fruits principle.

My tithe is split a number of ways, of which the largest is my church. Although I am no longer officially a Quaker, some of it goes to Quaker ministries.

Bernie Alimonti said...

I work at the Chalmers Center with the authors of the book “When Helping Hurts” mentioned on this page. They will host a free, three-part webinar lecture series on the appropriate relief and development response to the Haiti earthquake disaster. There is no charge for the webinars. However, to join a live webinar session, you must register at http://www.chalmers.org/when-helping-hurts/webinar/haiti-02-2010.php. A downloadable version will be available for those who can’t join the live webinar.

Johan Maurer said...

Thank you! I just finished the book and will make some more comments on it shortly on my blog. I will try to remember to repeat your information on the web session.